My Toddler Won’t Nap – What Should I Do?

I’ve heard plenty of parents complain, “My toddler won’t nap!”  What’s a parent to do in this situation?

I bet that when your toddler was an infant he did nap.  All infants nap.  So at some point the napping stopped.  If your toddler was napping regularly until about the age of 3, then it’s possible they’ve grown out of their need for a nap. Often it’s the parents who want the kids to continue napping so they get some extra child-free time. If that is your situation, I suggest you replace “nap time” with “quiet time”.  We did this in our house and it worked beautifully.  Just allow your toddler to play quietly or perhaps watch a children’s DVD while sitting on the couch with his comfort objects (blanket, stuffed animals, etc).  This will give your toddler a much needed rest.  It’s the next best thing to a nap for the parent also.

For those of you saying, “My toddler won’t nap and he still needs a nap!”, let’s analyze this scenario.  Most likely what has happened is your toddler has come to the conclusion that he’s missing out on something.  So nap time now has a negative association.  I highly recommend creating a new positive association to napping by discussing, with your toddler, what you’ll do after the nap is over.  Always schedule something fun that you can have your toddler look forward to.  This will re-build a positive association to the nap.  Remember, behavior is driven by emotion.  If your toddler has a new negative emotion regarding naps, he won’t want to nap.  So it’s your job to make turn the nap into something positive.  Giving your toddler something to look forward to after the nap is one way to accomplish this.

In my talking to toddlers audio course, I teach parents how to get their toddlers to cooperate by using language techniques.  Get your free audio lesson.

Enjoy your children,

Chris Thompson

SEE ALSO: This audio lesson will forever change the way you interact with your kids

12 Responses to My Toddler Won’t Nap – What Should I Do?

  1. Erica October 5, 2009 at 8:46 am #

    Haha. My son has NEVER napped. Even when he was an infant! Now he’s 15 months and still only taking two 15 minute cat naps per day!!!

  2. Kirsty March 1, 2010 at 4:28 am #

    What a marvelous idea. I'll sit down and discuss with my 13 month old toddler what we'll do after nap time. That'll solve the problem. A young toddler simply does not understand the concept of 'later' or 'after'.

  3. Chris Thompson March 1, 2010 at 5:01 am #

    Kirsty – with all due respect, you are trapped inside of a box with your thinking here. You are transforming the words “create a positive association” into “have a chat with your kid”. That's not what I wrote, and not what I'm suggesting. The association has to be created in a different way (either through example, or vivid imagination of what will happen “later”, etc.

    My audio program is geared to parents who have kids who are 2+.

  4. Kirsty March 1, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    What a marvelous idea. I'll sit down and discuss with my 13 month old toddler what we'll do after nap time. That'll solve the problem. A young toddler simply does not understand the concept of 'later' or 'after'.

  5. Chris Thompson March 1, 2010 at 12:01 pm #

    Kirsty – with all due respect, you are trapped inside of a box with your thinking here. You are transforming the words “create a positive association” into “have a chat with your kid”. That's not what I wrote, and not what I'm suggesting. The association has to be created in a different way (either through example, or vivid imagination of what will happen “later”, etc.

    My audio program is geared to parents who have kids who are 2+.

  6. AmandA March 20, 2011 at 10:17 pm #

    My 13 month old son has recently stopped napping altogether, which I assumed would make him have an earlier bedtime, however this is not the case. He refuses to go to bed any earlier and is now staying up later than his usual bedtime. I need help I feel as though my child is an insomniac. He is on the go all day long and still refuses to sleep. Why is he not getting tired?

    • Chris Thompson April 10, 2011 at 2:46 pm #

      13 months is definitely on the early side to have no naps. He probably does need more sleep than he’s getting. Keep in mind I’m not an expert at sleep issues with infants, and at his age it’s a bit young to apply any of my language strategies.

      What happens when you simply put him down for a nap? What’s the outcome that you get? Send me an email if you like. info at talkingtotoddlers.com

  7. Montanna August 2, 2011 at 11:47 pm #

    I’ll try anything at this point. I really hope he hasn’t out grown nap time, but we’ll see. He turns 3 this month… But, an early bed time is too!

  8. Montanna August 2, 2011 at 11:48 pm #

    Early bed time is great too*

  9. Rachel February 10, 2012 at 9:11 pm #

    I’ve discussed adventures after nap. I’ve rewarded good naps with stars on the calendar. I have been firm and left to check in after 5, 10, 15 minutes. But, I just get a banshee screaming and throwing fits in his room through the entire thing. My son has red-rimmed eyes by the end of the day and falls asleep at bedtime in a matter of minutes.

    We have a regular nap time with a clear schedule that leads up to nap time. I know that right now, he has two molars coming in. So, I give him children’s ibuprofin and an iced teether, which he loves. I try reading him stories to soothe him, but he rolls around his bed, flapping his arms and playing if I’m in the room and screams like it’s the end of the world if I’m not. He yells things like, “why, why, WHY!?” and “I have to pee” and “I have an owie”, “my balloon broke”, etc., etc.

    I am an attachment parent, and co-slept with my son for his first two years. He’s been napping on his own for about 4-6 months, and it is getting harder every day. I am a master’s student and this is the only time I get to do my work. Instead, it is spent going in and out of his room trying to convince him that naps are good and that I’m proud of him, and good boy, close your eyes. I am also pregnant and am getting so stressed about this torture that I got sick today for the first time in 4 weeks and have had IBS flare-ups.

    I am so sick of hearing all these “simple solutions”. Every child is different. Mine is wonderful- but at nap time, he is an incredible monster. And, I’m about to lose my sanity.

    • Chris Thompson September 12, 2012 at 4:04 pm #

      Rachel – how old is he now? Have you considered reframing “nap time” to “quiet time”? The difference is you give your child control over what he does in his room, so long as it’s quiet. He could play with stuffed toys, look at books, play with puzzles, but it has to be quiet. He can choose to sleep if he wants to.

      (BTW this is where the magic of talking to toddlers comes in, because you’ll learn to use special language skills to unconsciously guide your child’s interests closer to wanting to take a nap).

      My daughter used to fall asleep on her floor with a circle of stuffed animals around her. She has claimed she didn’t want to nap anymore. So we just let her play quietly. She got tired and fell asleep. Almost every day this happened, for several weeks. Then she stopped napping. It was her time to stop.

  10. Rachel February 10, 2012 at 9:14 pm #

    Btw, that wasn’t meant at a jab at your strategy… it’s just frustration of a tired mother. Positive naps aren’t working with this one.

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